Think your intellectual and creative juices take a dive when you become a stay-at-home parent? Think again.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post for World Moms Blog about my decision to become a stay-at-home parent. Prior to staying at home, I was a U.S. diplomat for nearly ten years. Resigning to stay at home was not part of my plans. I planned for a career in the Foreign Service and never really considered doing anything else. When my son was born, that all changed. I wasn’t ready to leave him, so I decided to stay at home. Fortunately, we were at a place financially where I could choose to do this.
While I was happy that I could stay at home with my son, there were times when I mourned the loss of my professional life. With the decision to stay at home, I thought that it was downhill professionally from that point; that I wasn’t really qualified to do anything else other than be a diplomat, and thus I would likely move on to lackluster opportunities when the kids started school (I have remained a stay-at-home mom after the birth of my two daughters, as well).
But here is the good news: I was wrong. Completely wrong. Leaving a career that I knew I could not easily go back to opened up a whole new set of opportunities for me. Ones that I was not previously able to explore because I had boxed myself in to a specific career path.
Ones that allowed me to stay at home with my children and continue to work at my own speed, on my own time, and discover new things about myself and my talents.
Shortly after I became a stay-at-home parent, I took up writing and started my own blog to preserve some of my sanity amidst the at-home chaos. The writing not only allowed me to let our family back home know what we were up to (we lived in Thailand at the time), but allowed me to continue to do something I loved. While I often wrote about adventures in parenting and travel, writing time was my time; my chance to unplug from parenthood, reflect, and continue to challenge myself creatively and intellectually. I began to write with a purpose to help families new to Thailand learn where to go and what to do. I learned that I could be a valuable resource to others while getting my “me” time. This was fulfilling and exciting, but became even more exciting when I got a call from Travel & Leisure Southeast Asia to write for their family travel issue. The thought of being a freelance writer had never occurred to me. I had resigned to be a stay-at-home mom, so you can imagine my surprise when I received a job offer for something for which I had never applied. I was up for the challenge, but also nervous about trying something completely new.
Luckily, my article was well-received and I began to write for T&L on a regular basis during our time in Thailand. The opportunity also encouraged me to test my talent. I reached out to other major online and print publications and, within the year, had written for the New York Times, CNN Travel, and others. Developing and pitching stories, writing for large audiences, and working with different editors was both challenging and exciting.
Each day I could give my undivided attention to my children, and each evening I learned something new about myself and abilities.
In addition to the freelancing work, reading to my children a good hour or two a day inspired me to delve into the world of children’s literature and pen my own draft of a children’s book. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and learned how to write for a young audience (note: writing for little ones is not as easy as it seems). I joined peer review groups, learned to give and take editorial criticism, and began the process of contacting publishing houses and sending my manuscript out for review. It was nerve-wracking to try something so new and unfamiliar, sure; but it was thrilling. Would I have ever done this had I not become a stay-at-home parent? Not a chance.
I began to challenge myself physically, as well. In addition to writing, running is another source of “me” time; one I use to recharge my batteries and reflect on my parenting, my relationships, and our transient lifestyle. After the birth of my third child in 2014, I trained for and ran two half-marathons. When arriving in Krakow this year, I formed a women’s running group. As soon as the kids start school full time, you can bet I’ll be training for my first full marathon.
All of these things – the freelancing, the children’s book, the running – they grew out of my decision to stay at home with my family. My assumption that becoming a full-time mom would inhibit me from succeeding professionally was false. On the contrary, letting go of my career and becoming a stay-at-home parent opened up new opportunities for me that I surely would not have explored otherwise.
Have you thought about what other talents and abilities you might possess? How does spending time with your children inspire you creatively and intellectually?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our mom to three and writer in Poland, Loren Braunohler.
The images used in this post are attributed to the author.